Knights of the Old Republic EP49: Ajunta Appalling

By Shamus
on Feb 10, 2016
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36 comments


Link (YouTube)

I know we’re making fun of this poor game, but the truth is I really miss this stuff. Korriban is loaded with worldbuilding. It’s full of history, intrigue, puzzles, characters, and stories. Sure, the puzzles are a little clunky, the characters are arch, and the stories are all trope-y as hell, but it gave the game another dimension. A lot of this kind of content has been sanded off in modern games. You’re either doing combat or someone is explaining where we need to go to get the next batch of combat.

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201636 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Xanyr says:

    “You’re either doing combat or someone is explaining where we need to go to get the next batch of combat.” I didn’t think anyone could summarize my problems with Fallout 4 in one sentence but there you go!

  2. Hermocrates says:

    I think only a military ajunta can save us from these puns now.

    • Pyrrhic Gades says:

      The way I headcanon it, that’s not even a pun, as Ajunta Pall got that name/title from leading a junta.
      At the time of him becoming a sithlord there were already 13 Darth Pauls, 9 Paul Shadows (including 3 Paul J Shadows and a Paul R.R Shadow), 117 Dark Pauls, and 4 Paul the extinguishers.

      Seriously, with the kind of Pauls I know, I really wouldn’t be surprised if Paul is a common name amongst the sith.

    • MichaelGC says:

      That’d cast a bit of a pall over proceedings.

  3. SlothfulCobra says:

    They really did over do it with ancient Sith ruins in the EU. Those pyramids that you briefly glimpse on Yavin 4 where Luke eventually founded his Jedi academy? Built by Sith. That weird cave where Luke cut off Vader’s head only for Vader to have his face? Some Sith dude died there long ago. Pretty much any building that’s been around for a long time and abandoned has a 50/50 shot of either being an ancient Sith structure or the remnants of an ancient alien society with technological wonders that have been lost to the ages. Or in certain cases, both.

    • John says:

      That’s the basic problem with the Star Wars EU. Everything and everyone that appears in one of the films, no matter how insignificant it may appear to the average movie-goer, will eventually develop an implausibly rich and significant backstory in the EU.

        • Atarlost says:

          That ice cream maker-like device is a computer data core? That’s absolutely ridiculous. They can fit six million dictionaries (and a speech synthesizer program for every alien vocal apparatus that doesn’t match the human standard), an AI, several years of droid memories, and a battery with substantial lifetime inside an object the size of a polished brass human head. Who would ever need enough data storage to fill an ice cream maker at that sort of density? C-3P0’s head might rival Google’s entire data empire depending on how many different alien vocal apparatuses he needs speech synthesizers for.

          Remember, it’s not one audio clip per phoneme to get non-stilted and emotive speech like C-3P0 produces. It’s one per phoneme per inflection per cadence per possible previous phoneme per possible following phoneme. Kind of explains why they might decide to just skip speech synthesis for stuff like astromechs and binary moisture vaporators.

          And the guy works for a gas minging company, not a data mining company.

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        There’s nothing wrong with having a rich backstory for everything, the real world is like that. Right now I’m reading a book on the backstory of shipping containers. I haven’t gotten to the part yet where a cargo company falls to the dark side and starts slaughtering hundreds in a bid for world domination yet (I still have hope though, dockworker unions are tough stuff).

        It’s great that the expanded universe can go and make great stories out of everything, it’s just that they’re a bit of a broken record on these things.

    • A lot of places where the Dark Side of the force is strong.

      But then Yoda tells you the Dark Side isn’t stronger, just easier and more attractive. Lucas isn’t the only one who turns the original trilogy into fools by his lack of consistency.

  4. Fast_Fire says:

    “… the [characters] are arch”.

  5. Felblood says:

    I think that games stopped spending this kind of money on this kind of thing, for the same reason you guys are so hard on them for it.

    It just doesn’t have the visual sizzle of combat.

    The Tomb of Ajunta Pall, or basically anything in Crusader Kings II, just isn’t going to fly in a 30 second TV spot.

  6. Gruhunchously says:

    Oh look, it’s that part of the Bioware game where an eccentric and verbose character that the writer is clearly very proud of talks circles around you while all of your dialogue options are dumb or one-dimensional. In their more recent titles they tentatively allow you a few sarcastic remarks. If they’re really generous they let retaliate with violence. Maybe at some point they’ll let the player and player character assert themselves in the face of such verbosity.

    Remember those bits in Deus Ex: Human Revolution where some righteous smart-ass tries to play shifty games with you and you have the opportunity to turn it around on them and leave them much less assured of their position. I wish more RPGs had moments like those.

  7. Naota says:

    To be fair, the way I see it Manaan from the same game is a planet composed near-entirely of things Bioware has done much better in later projects.

    Almost all of the dialogue with the cast of NPC’s exists solely to repeat the same small handful of expository talking points, all of the quests are so rote and boilerplate that they play like an early draft of the broad-strokes plot beats sans actual writing, and then the underwater suit segment caps it all off…

    Say what you will, but for all their trimming of the fat, the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games at least give every NPC in their areas something unique to talk about, and enough care is given to the sidequests you do get to make them interesting on their own merits. What’s really unfortunate is that both series only get more streamlined with every installment. At risk of making the exact same argument, Mass Effect 1-era Bioware was about the only place you could find a decent variety of side-content at a good level of polish.

    For example: KOTOR has it much better than the original NWN, but it keeps the same bad habit of dropping tropes wholesale in front of the player and doing nothing with them, as if their existence alone makes for meaningful writing. It’s especially bad in places like the swoop racing circuits of each planet, which have the exact same tropes recycled for every member, which themselves are re-used from the fighting pit on Taris. It’s bad enough talking to one miserable old vet being used as a punching bag by his younger peers without any seeming narrative goal – five of them is right out!

    • Killbuzz says:

      I thought I was the only one who always considered Kotor’s writing to be lackluster. Bioware’s later efforts, like Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect, while not quite on par with CDProjekt’s and Obsidian’s work, feature much better better plotting and natural-sounding dialogue.

      What’s particularly odd about Kotor’s writing is that there’s almost no relevant world building to speak off. With the exception of Manaan, none of the planets you visit show any sign or indication of the ongoing war in which the Sith are trying to eradicate the Republic, which is absurd on so many levels I can’t even begin to describe. Contrast that with Kotor 2, where every single location you visit is dealing with the aftermath of the war and the near-extinction of Jedi.

  8. Galad says:

    For all its tropiness, sometimes cheesiness even, expositional stuff like shown in this episode is why I’d play these games and what I’d remember fondly about them years later. Not the clunky turn-based combat or chee-koo-pa-donga.

  9. MrGuy says:

    Wait – I’m confused. Why did the Spirit of Arkham have a sword in the first place?

  10. MrGuy says:

    Also, I think Ruts’ point is interesting about the Sith having tombs.

    The sith revere power over all things. They routinely kill each other to gain more power when they have the opportunity, and this is seen as a natural part of their philosophy. The strong survive, the weak get killed. If you get killed, it’s a sign that you were too weak, and so too unworthy.

    For sith to honor their dead is to honor their weak, which is completely counter to their philosophy.

    Sure, as Ruts points out, any one particular power-mad Sith would be the kind of person who would like to be remembered forever. But I see two problems with that.

    First, however grand a tomb a sith builds, he needs other sith to put him in that tomb (and so revere his weakness of death). Why would other Sith do that (As opposed to, say, plundering the tomb?)

    Second, for a sith to build a tomb while they are alive is to contemplate their own death, and so contemplate their own future weakness. That seems…very unsith. Sith masters try to kill every one of their own students one by one. This is not a culture that contemplates a retirement or settling down. I am the strongest, until the day I am not, on which day I die. It’s a very “live in the moment” approach. And it seems wholly incompatible with the idea of accepting your future death – one you accept it’s going to happen, you’ve doomed yourself.

    • Bubble181 says:

      They’re warnings. “Even Grand Darth Killkill got ambushed in his bed by his apprentice in the end. Never show weakness, never relax, never unwind, or you’ll end up like Grand Darth Killkill.”

    • John says:

      Eh, I don’t have a problem with the Sith’s monumental architecture. Two things:

      First, the fact that a Sith was able to kill his Master does not preclude the Sith from either liking or respecting the Master. (“Thanks for everything you taught me, Master. It’s a shame I don’t need you anymore.”) So why not build your recently murdered master a fancy tomb? It’s important to set a good example for future generations. I mean, you’d want the apprentice who will inevitably stab you in the back to build you a fancy tomb, right?

      Second, there’s Sith Lords and then there’s regular, every-day Sith. Think Darth Malak on the one hand and some goon in silver armor on the other. If you’re a Sith Lord, you don’t necessarily build a tomb to honor the memory of the guy you murdered. No, you build it to remind the peons just how amazing Sith Lords are. In other words, politics.

      • ? says:

        That’s actually origin of Sith in old EU. A group of exiled Dark Jedi crash-land on Korriban and find species worshipping the Dark Side called Sith. Dark Jedi are treated like gods and rule the population using them to build an empire. Eventually Dark Jedi start using the name Sith for themselves (a Sith Lord might as easily refer to the one who rules Sith after all). Sith-species builds tombs just like Egyptians build pyramids – to honor their living deities. Dark Lords encourage this practice to reinforce their control of slave species. By the time Revan puts his/her academy there the Sith Empire has risen and fallen several times (some incarnations less dominicidal than others), but it existed long enough to litter the planets surface with graveyards of old masters.

  11. MrGuy says:

    Even if Earth was the only planet under attack and even if every single other race in the galaxy magically aligned under Shepard’s banner, and even if they gathered every single space-worthy ship in Earth orbit to fight, it would not be enough to save a single continent. We know this. The previous games made it clear this battle couldn’t be won through force of arms…

    This, by the way, is the reason why destroying the derelict reaper in the last act of ME2 is the single worst, most self-defeating, most mindblowingly “sabotaging your own goals” move Shepard ever makes.

    If we can’t defeat the reapers by force of arms, our only hope is that they have a weakness. Maybe the ReaperOS can be hacked Will-Smith-style. Maybe their armor is vulnerable to some kind of special beam weapon. Maybe their communications can be scrambled. You know how we find this out? By studying them.

    Except, of course, they won’t exactly let us run tests on them while they’re blowing us up. So we need to study them. And when, gods be prasied!, we actually FIND a real, inert, studyable reaper that we can actually use to give us a fighting chance, what does the game let us do with that miracle? We can either blow it up, or hand it to Cerberus. Canonically, we blow it up.

    If there was ever a GOOD reason to court martial Shepard, it would be “he destroyed the one chance we had of saving the galaxy from the reapers.”

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So this guy was the original cerberus?A nobody brought to incredible heights in fanfics.

  13. John says:

    I think that Bioware tried to do some interesting things with the Sith on Korriban. For one thing, they tried to come up with a Sith philosophy that is (a) an explicit rejection of the Jedi Code, (b) not utterly awful-sounding, and yet (c) nevertheless completely consistent with sneering, psychotic jack-assery. If you talk to Yuthura about the Code of the Sith, she explains the Code as a sort of a manifesto of personal liberation. (And if you talk to Yuthura about her back-story, you can see why she would find that so compelling.) The problem with the Code of the Sith is that it encourages you to view pretty much everything else in the universe as obstacles–or worse. And so, after who knows how many thousands of years, we get guys like Jorak Uln, whose personal interpretation of Sith philosophy seems to be “stab everyone in the back at all times.”

    And yet even Jorak isn’t quite as bad as he could be. When he encourages you to stab your hypothetical master in the back, he justifies it as being good for the Sith as a whole. When he encourages you to keep valuable knowledge from the other Sith, he’s talking about your rivals; he actually encourages you to teach new and powerful techniques to your trusted minions.

    • Taellosse says:

      The inherent problem with the “Sith philosophy” as presented in KotOR is that it’s self-defeating by nature. Any philosophy that simultaneously encourages collectivist behavior with the absolute supremacy of the individual at any cost is going to be. The Sith seek to gather and preserve knowledge of the Force so as to increase their individual power, but simultaneously encourage each other to kill peers, superiors, and subordinates at nearly any opportunity – such behavior inevitably leads to the steady erosion of gathered knowledge over time, particularly since one way to gain advantage over others is to keep key parts of what one knows secret from everyone else, even those one is ostensibly teaching.

      It was this inherent weakness that the “Rule of Two” was supposedly devised, in part, to correct, but that philosophy requires an odd degree of selflessness – a devotion to the ultimate cause of the Sith as a collective over one’s personal power that is directly at odds with every other aspect of its philosophical goals – that not even its supposed author, Darth Bane, was apparently able to achieve.

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